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1 May 2019

Stitching the past

Written by Antonia Laurence-Allen, Curator (Edinburgh and East)
A detail of the crewelwork lady’s jacket
Crewelwork lady’s jacket, 2018–19, at Culross Palace
​A jacket, inspired by an early 17th-century example in Glasgow’s Burrell Collection, makes a stunning addition to the beautiful needlework collection at Culross Palace.​

This jacket took eight people two years to complete. The volunteer needleworkers meet once a week and have already produced a number of bed and wall hangings for Culross.

The coordinator of the group, June McAleece, has explained the thinking behind this jacket. Her words speak volumes about the care, attention and detail that goes into producing these crewelwork embroidered textiles.

Detail of the jacket showing floral details with stitching
Detail of Culross jacket

ALA: Why did you choose this jacket?

JM: We decided to produce items of clothing and accessories that the ladies of the household might have sewn for themselves. An embroidered jacket was chosen – its design reflects the fashion of the time, focusing on floral decoration and colourful scroll designs.

The Burrell Collection jacket that inspired the Culross creation
Embroidered waistcoat (c.1615–18) © Burrell Collection, Museum of Glasgow

ALA: Where did you find inspiration?

JM: Our jacket is modelled from an example found in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. As the Burrell specialists have noted, these jackets are very rare as very little 17th-century costume has survived.

Detail of the Culross jacket showing pink floral details
Detail of the Culross jacket

ALA: How did you make this jacket?

JM: As there are several pieces to the pattern, many people could work on it at the same time. Each stitcher was allocated motifs, and the various pieces were passed round until all the flowers had been completed.

Stitching on the Culross jacket
Stitching on the Culross jacket

The scrolls were then worked in heavy chain with perle cotton and a metallic thread. The last stitches were ‘thorn’ stitch round the inner and outer areas of the scrolls.

A silk lining was made and both lining and jacket assembled with hand stitching.

Detail of Culross jacket showing the fastenings; no metal hooks and eyes are visible.
Detail of Culross jacket showing the fastenings; no metal hooks and eyes are visible.

ALA: What did you use to do the jacket up?

JM: Hooks and eyes were put in place for the fastenings; we button-holed over the metal areas to keep everything in place when the jacket was fastened.

This jacket, fit for a lady of notable standing, is on display in the principal stranger’s bedchamber at Culross Palace. Thank you to the Culross needlework volunteers and to all those who give their time and energy to the National Trust for Scotland.

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